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Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII
Score: 72%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Developer: Ubisoft Entertainment
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 16 (Online)
Genre: Flight/ Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII shipped last year on the Xbox 360 and is now making its way to the PS3. While most of the game remains untouched from previous versions, the PS3 version features a few extras, including new planes and missions. The most noteworthy of these additions is a new control scheme that uses the motion-control properties of the Sixaxis controller.

Visuals are Blazing Angels’ best feature. Planes are detailed, right down to exhaust firing up when you speed up and working wing-flaps and rudders. Unfortunately, you’re likely to only see these details on your own plane since a majority of the enemy planes you’ll encounter show up as small specks highlighted by a blinking red box. In the event you’re close enough to see details on enemy planes, they’re probably spiraling to the ground in flames. The closer you get to the ground, the worse things look. Big details, like recognizable landmarks and battleships, look great while ground units look pixelated and messy. Blazing Angels also contends with some rough frame rate issues.

Sound doesn’t quite match up to the high standards set by the visuals and actually fares worse than previous versions in some respects. Music tries for a “big” feel and never gets there. On the other hand, weapons fire and engine noises sound much fuller. The voicework has been reworked for the worse. Wingmen are still way too stereotypical and not all that compelling as characters. As a result, there’s no attachment to your wingmen which hurts the game. Even something as simple as friendly banter goes a long way – just look at Republic Commando.

You assume the role of an American volunteer flying with the British Airforce. After a “accidental” skirmish with Nazis while on a training mission, you eventually fall into a squadron made up of other volunteer pilots, forming the Blazing Angels. From here Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII falls into a trap that most good WWII-based games manage to avoid. Rather than focus on one or two major campaigns, Blazing Angels tries to squeeze in every major battle in the war. The game opens with the evacuation of Dunkirk and bombing of London, then jumps over to North Africa, then Pearl Harbor, then on to locations like Paris and Midway. This would have worked if the game followed different squadrons, but when it is one section, it doesn’t work. On the plus side, the game does a great job of presenting the actual history behind missions, so the timing is little more than a nit-picky nuisance.

Blazing Angels takes the Hollywood approach to WWII fighter combat; historical accuracy with a slant towards fast-paced action. You never run out of ammo including torpedoes, rockets and bombs and can fly really close to the ground, even while inverted. At the same time, a few sim elements like engine stall are also brought into the mix that don’t feel “right”.

On the plus side, there’s a lot of variety in missions, so there’s always something different to do. At the same time, things tend to become repetitive since every mission essentially breaks down to the same basic mechanics. Whether you are zooming in for an aerial photo, bombing or torpedoing something, it all uses the same mechanic. On top of that, most of your time is spent shooting down wave after wave of enemy fighters.

After completing the main campaign, you can access two shorter campaigns that add length, though they don’t break away from the gameplay found in the main game.

In addition to offline multiplayer, you can also participate in 16-player matches online. Seek and Destroy has you hunting down specially-marked targets, while Dogfight is a standard Deathmatch. Aces High, which is the more interesting of the included multiplayer modes, tags one pilot as the Ace and has the rest of the players trying to shoot him down. Once he is shot down, a new Ace is chosen. Team-based games are also available and include bombing runs and Capture the Base modes.

Overall, the online modes are solid, though it is very hard to find people to play with. I can’t recall ever playing a full 16-player game with most rooms having 4–5 players total, if that. Communication while online is a rough spot as well, though this is more the fault of Sony’s lack of a decent online program.

Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII constantly wavers between easy and cheap. Most of the time, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem completing mission tasks given some issues with balance - the biggest of which are your wingmen, especially your mechanic. Whenever your plane begins to sputter from taking too much damage, you can call on your mechanic who, after you input a short button sequence, can repair your plane to pristine condition while in-flight.

Even with these issues, there are a few mission goals that seem a little too rigid. Some are incredibly picky when it comes to parameters like flying out of sight range or how much damage constitutes a failure to protect a target.

Game Mechanics:
Overall, the controls are tight and responsive. Steering is handled with the left analog stick while the right acts as a throttle. However, except for take-offs and landings, you won’t have to use the stick too much unless you’re rushing to meet a certain objective. The coolest function is the chase camera, which locks the camera on whoever you’re currently targeting. This allows you to perform maneuvers while keeping an eye on your target. Using the chase camera does become a bit disorienting and can lead to crashes if you’re not careful – so while its useful, it is far from perfect.

In addition to the standard setup, you can also switch to motion-controlled controls if you want a little more challenge. Here your movements dictate where your plane goes. Tilt to the left, and your plane pitches to the left; tilt up and the nose pulls up… and so on. Acclimating yourself to the scheme doesn’t take too long with the biggest hurdle being the smoothness of your movements. If you quickly jerk the controller around, the plane won’t respond. Instead you need to steer with smooth, steady movements. The only major downside to flying with the Sixaxis is that you sacrifice a good bit of accuracy, but other than that, it feels fine.

As with the 360 release, Blazing Angels is an okay purchase if you’re in the market for a flying game. There is enough game here to give fans of the genre something to occupy their time with, though the lack of online competition hampers the multiplayer aspects. In the end, Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII is fun while it lasts, but not something you’ll keep going back to play.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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